Name: Summer Fanous
College & Majors/Minors: Northeastern Illinois University – Majored in English, Minored in Sociology
Current Location: Toronto, Canada
Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer
Where do you work and what is your current position?
As a freelance writer, I have the luxury of working anywhere with my MacBook and an Internet connection. Nevertheless, I write out of the comfort of my home office (oftentimes in my pjs). I am currently working on projects for a number of clients in a variety of sectors, but I specialize in creating content for professionals in the real estate industry.
One of the main jobs I am focused on now is helping to build a comprehensive website which provides information on all of the new and recently completed condo/townhouse developments across Canada. I also create, edit and manage news articles, which are also featured on the site. The goal of this website is to be a one stop destination for potential homebuyers to access all the information they need to make an educated decision.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I didn’t really “find” my first job; I was enlisted to help out in the family business, Top Value Auto Repair in Chicago. No, I wasn’t changing spark plugs or rotating tires, though my dad has been doing so longer than I’ve been alive. I worked in the office, answering phones, ordering parts, talking to customers, creating fliers, etc.
This experience ultimately helped me get a job working as an administrative assistant at two prestigious Chicago real estate firms. Subsequently, I learned a lot about the industry but it’d be a while before I got to take advantage of all that knowledge.
What was another job that was important in your career?
Once I moved to Canada I started writing for a number of websites including Searching Toronto for free so that I could gain some more experience and build my writing portfolio. This was very important to my career, as it is how I earned my stripes.
Thanks to this, I became introduced to SkyViewSuites, the first furnished rental company that hired me to blog for them. It wasn’t long before I actively sought out similar companies to write for. Today, I manage numerous blogs for apartment rental companies and provide copy for a multitude of clients in various professions.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
Honestly, I wasn’t really prepared for college going in, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I started my academic career in community college and transferred to university after I obtained my associates degree. Initially, I’d planned on getting a business degree with the hopes of becoming an entrepreneur. However, it just didn’t work out that way—life has a way of pushing and pulling you around, and the trick is to move with the forces, not against them.
I’ve always loved reading literature, writing poetry and thought becoming an English teacher would allow me to be close to what I loved. Plans changed, however and I decided to continue on with my courses, but dropped the teaching idea. I figured I could do plenty with an English degree and if I changed my mind back to becoming a teacher, all I’d need to do was become certified.
All of the classes that were required for a major in English really did help me out after graduation. Not only did I learn how to be a better reader and writer, but also how to work efficiently and effectively with others. I was focused on graduating and didn’t take advantage of all of the resources that are available to students.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Before you graduate with a degree in English, make sure you learn about all of the resources offered at your particular school. Talk to your advisor, don’t be afraid or ashamed of asking for help if you need it, that’s what they’re there for.
If you’re a poet, go out there and read your pieces in front of people, it’ll give you a rush and help boost your confidence. Submit your work—be it short stories, prose, whatever—to as many publications as you can. It's unlikely that it’ll be accepted everywhere, so don’t stress out if you’re work wasn’t chosen.
If you’re on a high horse, come down. There will always be someone out there who has more connections, knows more about your field of expertise, or is just “luckier” than you. There’s no need to kick yourself about it, just keep trying different things and something is bound to work.
Create strong friendships with your peers and professors and keep in touch with them even after you graduate. The more people you know, the better chance you have that one of them will consider you when an opportunity you might be suited for arises. Likewise, network as much as you can at job fairs, industry parties, whatever.
Finally, there are so many graduates out there who are either unemployed, or working in a completely different field, so don’t expect to get a job that pays $100k right after graduation. You might have to work for free for a while. Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience, meet new people and it looks great on your resume.
Whatever it is that you want to do, put it in your mind and it will happen.